A qualitative study of the experiences and perceptions of adults with chronic musculoskeletal conditions following a 12-week Pilates exercise programme

Musculoskeletal Care. 2019 Mar;17(1):54-62. doi: 10.1002/msc.1365. Epub 2018 Nov 6.


Introduction: The aim of the present study was to explore the experiences and perceptions of adult patients with chronic musculoskeletal conditions following a Pilates exercise programme. A qualitative approach was taken to both data collection and analysis, with alignment to the philosophy of interpretive phenomenology. Participants included 15 women and seven men with a range of chronic musculoskeletal conditions, including nonspecific low back pain, peripheral joint osteoarthritis and a range of postsurgical conditions. The age range was from 36 years to 83 years, and the mean age was 57 years (standard deviation 14.1 years).

Methods: Data were collected via digital recordings of four focus groups in three North-West of England physiotherapy clinics. The data were transcribed verbatim and then analysed using a thematic framework. Data were verified by a researcher and randomly selected participants, and agreement was achieved between all parties.

Results: The results were organized into five main themes: physical improvements; Pilates promotes an active lifestyle: improved performance at work and hobbies; psychosocial benefits and improved confidence; increased autonomy in managing their own condition; and motivation to continue with exercise.

Conclusion: The study was the first to investigate individual perceptions of the impact of Pilates on the daily lives of people with chronic conditions. The Pilates-based exercise programme enabled the participants to function better and manage their condition more effectively and independently. Further to previous work, the study revealed psychological and social benefits which increase motivation to adhere to the programme and promote a healthier lifestyle.

Keywords: arthritis; qualitative research; rehabilitation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • England
  • Exercise Movement Techniques / methods*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / psychology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / therapy*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Perception
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life